Over at apophenia, danah boyd writes that quitting facebook is pointless and what is actually needed is for us to challenge facebook to be more responsive.
I find this rhetoric profoundly disempowering. Social movements and social pressure doesn’t happen only from everyone marching to the beat of one drum. I’m sure more moderate feminists told radical lesbian separatists that their actions were pointless too but the movement needed all these different ways of acting to build the solidarities and arguments that it did.
I think danah might be reacting to tech elites who are presuming that because they quit, they will be taste leaders. I think that is crap. However, calling quitting pointless misses that quitting isn’t just about affecting Facebook. Decentering Facebook, we might recognize that:
1) Quitting actually creates time and occasion for other modes of sociality. Making those other forms, in some cases by going back to straight up talking on the phone and in others, playing and experimenting (as my lab did by making LUCIbook with whiteboards). Quitting, then, is an opening to a set of experiments. But you don’t *have* to quit to experiment.
2) If quitting is meaningful and feels good to some people, why deny them that? Why slam it and call it pointless? Why use a position of authority as a prominent blogger to foreclose options?
3) Quitting (and switching, perhaps) seems, to me, a better alternative than hoping FB gets its act together, changes its corporate culture, and starts actually being responsible and responsive. It doesn’t even have to be an anti-corporate mobilization. Frankly, compared to Facebook, Google and Twitter are amazing at being responsive and simple to understand, and they are right there right now, ready to use. This doesn’t have to be about corporate purity, as I noted in my last post about platform pluralism.
The role of feminist argument ought to be deepening our analysis of complex power relations, open-ended possibilities, and agencies springing up in unusual places. It should not be making foreclosing claims about alternate social practices, whether that’s quitting facebook or staying on it.